This is a simple step-by-step guide to the neighbourhood planning process – from getting started to getting your plan ‘made’.
Step 1: Getting set up
The first thing to do is find out if neighbourhood planning is already happening in your area. To see if there’s already a local neighbourhood plan group that you could join, check your local authority’s website (under neighbourhood planning) or click on the map.
In areas with a parish or town council, they have to lead on the neighbourhood plan, so why not get in touch to find out how you can get involved. You can find information about your local council via their website. You can get involved by joining a steering group or through their community engagement programme.
If there’s nothing in your area, we can help you get started.
In areas without a parish or town council (i.e. most urban areas), you have to set up a neighbourhood forum, which is a group specially set up to create a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood forums need to have at least 21 members. To get one started talk to your neighbours, local businesses and community groups and get them on board.
Once you’ve set up your neighbourhood forum, you have to apply to the local authority to designate it, which means officially recognise it.
Before you decide to go ahead, some things to bear in mind:
- What it can do: Make sure you have a clear understanding of what a neighbourhood plan is and what it can achieve to be sure it’s the right thing for your area.
- Time commitment: The average length of time to produce a neighbourhood plan is 18-24 months, and it is mostly done by volunteers in your community, though there is funding to pay for expert help where needed.
- The complexity of the process: A neighbourhood plan is a legal document and requires detailed research and evidence to create.
- Everyone’s invited: Producing a neighbourhood plan is a community-wide affair. It’s a great opportunity to talk to everyone from children to elders across the area.
Step 2: Determining the neighbourhood area
Once your neighbourhood planning group is set up, your next step is to decide on the boundary of the area that you want to cover in your neighbourhood plan – or site designation. Neighbourhood areas can be large or small.
The boundaries of a neighbourhood area can be decided in a number of ways – They could be existing parish boundaries, physical boundaries like a road or river, or a catchment area for the local shops. Speak to other local people about it to make sure that your decision feels right to them.
Once the area boundary is decided, you need to submit it to the local authority for designation.
Once the area (and forum) is designated, work on the plan can begin!How to designate a neighbourhood plan
Step 3: Community consultation and evidence
Writing a neighbourhood plan is a fantastic way to become more involved in your local area. Your neighbourhood planning group will need to talk to lots of people locally – residents, businesses, community groups, schools – to find out what’s important to them about where they live, what they’d like to improve and what their vision is for the local area.
You’ll also need to gather evidence to back up the ideas that the community want to see.
Using feedback and evidence, your next job is to write the planning policies that will make your community’s vision a reality. As you’ll see in the Support section, there’s lots of support and guidance to help you do this.How to gather and use evidence
Step 4: Submitting your plan
Once your draft neighbourhood plan is complete, it’s submitted to the local authority. They’ll check that you’ve followed the correct procedures, that you’ve provided evidence to back up your planning policies and that you’ve involved the whole community in the process.
The local authority will arrange for an independent planning inspector to check that the plan meets the basic conditions.
Finally, if your plan passes these tests, the local authority will organise a public referendum (vote), so that everyone who lives in your neighbourhood area can decide whether they support it. If more than 50% of the voters are in favour of the plan, the local authority must bring it into force.
This means that it will form part of the statutory Development Plan for that area, so any decisions about whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area in the future must be made in accordance with your neighbourhood plan.How to submit your neighbourhood plan to your local planning authority